Opening comments …
"We're going to have another quick turnaround with the game Saturday evening. It's been important for us to get right back to work in preparation for the Steelers. Things kind of worked out the way we assumed (regarding the playoffs), and I'm proud of our guys for taking care of what we could control, which is getting through the football game yesterday and coming out on the winning end. We'll continue to move forward."
*Is there an upside to being familiar with this team, with the short week of rest? *"Last week, preparation was done on any of the three teams we could play. We just played this team four weeks ago, and not long four weeks before that. It's been 8-9 weeks, and to play three times is a rarity in the NFL."
*What can the two previous games teach you on how to beat the Steelers? *"Take care of the football. And when you have opportunity, take it away. Whether it's the Steelers, or any team; its paramount. When its playoff time, it becomes more paramount."
*What have you seen from AJ McCarron's decision making the past three games? *"We feet good about his decision-making those three games. We weren't as thrilled with some of his decisions his first opportunity (in relief of Andy Dalton against Pittsburgh). He's progressed. Every time we come out here is a new opportunity. Its part of the plan, the makeup, and what our QB has to do. It's what any player that touches the football in your offense has to do, which is protect the football."
*Does it help that he's played the Steelers before? *"I think that's good to talk about, but it's all part of the body of work."
*Any update on Andy Dalton? *"Not that I'll share. (Laughs). But we have to go into the week regardless of Andy's status, and we're going to at least in the early part of the week be preparing with AJ."
*How important is it for AJ to know the status leading up to Saturday? *"It's important for the football team."
*Is it a big deal for entire team to be all on the same page as far as a starting QB? *"We're talking more than we need to talk about it there. (Laughs.)"
*A lot of emotions and chippiness and penalties in the last game against Pittsburgh. Any discussion about it this week? *"I think the message was taken care of before."
*What does this game mean for you personally, with the 0-6 playoff record? *"One-and-six. That's all. It's important to move on and win. Our guys have worked hard, we have to come out and play great football come Saturday evening. That's what's key and paramount. It's not personal to me. It's an important game for our football team because it keeps our goals in line. Now that we're in our 'second season', there's a finality to this. We have to play error-free football. On offense, defense, and special teams, we have to make things happen. Our good players have to rise up and play great; that's part of winning here in January."
*Is there a feeling that one win can unleash a playoff run? *"One win is not what we're looking for. I think it will be a relief for outside of this building, yes."
*Is it hard to string the playoff droughts together over the years, since the rosters change so much? *"There's not a correlation. Each and every time out there's a new opportunity. Its new folks, new faces, and a new situation."
*What can you say about the fan support this year? *"You play in the NFL to win the division and have home-field advantage. Our fans have been great all year, and it's outstanding. PBS is loud, and that's a good thing. I think when you think about our division, we play in loud stadiums. In Paul Brown, we hold a home field advantage here, which is great."
*What's the key factor in avoiding turnovers? *"I think it starts with anybody who possesses the football. Their ball security all the time, practice, everything you do. Hue (Jackson) and the offensive coaches have done an outstanding job in that from the start; impressing upon the group that that was going to be a key to becoming a champion. Then it goes to the quarterback, who possesses the football nearly every snap. But it's also returners, everybody who touches the ball. When defensive guys have the football in their hands, too. We don't want to have Rey Maualuga pitching the ball at the end of the game. (Laughs). We want to return the ball, get what we can get, and let's go. Once you work hard to get that football, you don't want to ever turn it over. There's a lot to that whole thing, and I think we try to stress it all the time."
*Do you get the sense that this game means more than most? *"I think for every team and player that goes to the playoffs, it's important for them. You start this in April, and they start it for the opportunity to be playing at the end of the year. Whether it year one or year 15, everybody is the same?
*Is it the same for you? *"There's no doubt. It's one of the few jobs in the world where you work harder to work more."
*Has your playoff approach changed over the years? *"I don't know that it has. We go back to the first Gatorade shower, where I wasn't thrilled with it, because there's more to be had. Yesterday I tried to enjoy it for the sake of the players a little more, but there's more to be had, and I want them to understand that. I think we do a have sense of that."
*You didn't enjoy the Gatorade shower as much as Mike Zimmer … *"No, and I know why. It's a huge accomplishment for Mike, the Vikings, and what they've done. It's his blood, sweat, tears that have gone into that, and the relief of beating a team like they did at their place on the road, who's won that division 6-7 times in a row. That's a huge accomplishment. I was right there, I stayed up and watched the entire game with Mike."